At the prospect of another hot and dry summer and considering lower flow in the rivers that supply the city’s drinking water, Tauranga City Council is asking residents to rethink their use of water outdoors and adopt water conservation habits early.
This year Tauranga is facing a new water supply constraint of lower water flow levels in the rivers that supply the city with drinking water. Low flow levels combined with increased water use due to hotter weather will have immediate impact on the municipal water supply. Tauranga’s rainfall this year is down more than 30% compared with the average annual rainfall.
City Water Manager Stephen Burton said that the drier conditions and a decrease in river flow, combined with summer weather prospects are a source of concern that warrants the community’s attention.
“As regions around New Zealand are experiencing the effects of drought, the prospect of a long, hot summer is driving the need for councils to plan for managing drinking water supply over the dry season,” he said.
Steady growth in Tauranga has seen daily water consumption grow in step, and current average daily use is close to what used to be the threshold to consider water conservation measures. (43.7 million litres and 45 million litres a day respectively.)
“Whilst daily water use per household has not changed significantly in the past ten years, we currently supply 12,000 households more than we did ten years ago. This means there is little margin to cater for a steep increase in outdoor water use during summer. When we look at that in light of what we observe is happening to river water flow, it’s even more evident we need to make every drop count this summer,” said Mr Burton.
Peak water demand in summer can jump to 150% of normal daily demand, driven mainly by an increase in water outdoor water use.
“There is sufficient water to supply the needs of the city, if everyone does their part to conserve water,” Mr Burton emphasises. “We encourage residents to see every day as a water conservation day.”
The council is urging people to rethink their use of drinking water for activities such as washing the house and hosing hard surfaces, and consider the timing of putting in new lawns and gardens. It’s also important to plan ahead and prepare gardens for a drier period. This includes:
- Mulching your garden to keep moisture in.
- Soaking your garden every few days rather than a quick drink every night. Light watering lets water evaporate quickly and makes plant roots grow shallow. Soaking the ground every few days encourages the roots to go deeper into the soil where moisture is held longer.
- Water during the cooler hours of the day (early morning or late evening) to reduce evaporation.
- Planting plants that are suitable for our local climate and don’t need as much water.
More tips to conserve water
“Our weather is changing, and our habits need to change with it” said Mr Burton. “Water is a precious and finite resource and it’s important we start thinking about how we can manage getting through summer without increasing our water use.”
Tauranga has seen water restrictions in the form of a sprinkler ban in the past three years. Whilst good progress is being made on the construction of a third water treatment plant, expected to be ready for supply late 2022, restrictions are likely to be implemented again this summer.